I haven’t always hated Christmas. I loved it for a while, and I like it a lot now. But for a good decade in the middle, I hated Christmas. And it’s almost forgotten cousin, Thanksgiving.
There are reasons why I stopped enjoying it – after my folks got divorced I was un-invited to my paternal grandparent’s farm for annual Christmas dinner (I didn’t want to ride there with the woman he had an affair with and then married, they told me that was a deal breaker. I was 10.).
It was still full of merriment and we still went to church and we still went to visit the lights at the Mormon temple – but I was pulling away from Christmas. I couldn’t think of anything for my wish list and felt like people were angry with me for that. I remember getting lots of blank-inside books and bath sets. It all began to feel rehearsed, and like we were all trying not to admit we were on a family marathon till December 26. I don’t think everyone else felt this way, but I felt like it was work trying to be so gregarious and “on” at all times.
I have a loving, wonderful family who does deeply care for one another. It’s a family I don’t see enough of, we’re all spread out and very busy, but they are excellent people who wish excellent things for one another. I’m very, very lucky that way. I’ve never had a truly awful Christmas, I’ve never been kicked out or berated or harmed. Those things are so terrible I don’t think I could really imagine them. So I can’t say that this post is about truly horrible, terrible Christmases.
I just stopped loving them until I realized a couple of things.
1) There were things I loved about Christmas, but I’d been relying on other people to provide them. I wanted the evergreen garlands and the carols and the sing-song radio tunes (but only in December please). I wanted the decorating tradition back, the Christmas bell ringing, and the stockings. But I was counting on someone else to do all that for me. Once I moved out, it wasn’t really up to the family anymore, it was up to me.
2) I can’t hold others responsible for how much I enjoy the holidays. I wanted a tree last year, and my roommates said that if I wanted a tree (other than their tiny plastic red tree) it was on me to buy it, set it up, clean it up and find a place to store it in my room. So I built one out of cardboard. It appealed to my DIYer sensibilities, was cost free aside from time, and looked great. I wanted it, and sulking saying that my roommates made it too hard to have a tree wasn’t good enough.
3) Being a grown up meant I could make my own traditions. I’d never written Christmas cards, ever. But last year I did. I can’t remember ever having an advent wreath, but last year I made one (a DIY cork craft, I might add!). I put on A Christmas Carol audio book and knitted myself a winter hat with the tree lights on and some candles burning. I did the whole thing, on my own. If I want a clove orange, I’m making one. It’s my house. It’s my Christmas.
In the end, the lesson I learned (one that I hope comes earlier to you than it did to me) was that most of the time once you’re out on your own (possibly feeling lonely and transient as I have) at Christmas, you lay down the rules. Is it a joyful time of year? Do you love Christmas treats, garlands, smells and clothes?
Let yourself have them. Don’t wait. Making your own traditions is a gift that you don’t have to wrap up. If that’s not a perfectly cheesy Christmas post-closing line, then I don’t know what is.
Happy holidays, and stay awesome.